Why do we stay small? I’m not talking about physical stature. I’m talking about how we some people show up in the world. It’s easy to get locked into one pattern of behavior or the other, whether dominant or submissive. But outside this polarity, I believe there exists an intrinsic quality that is often overlooked: Willpower.
Domination and submission are very common qualities in all human relationships. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with this dynamic. It doesn’t have to be sexual either (Although it can be 😉 ). I think it’s a natural dynamic that has arisen out of years of humanity needing dominant leaders to survive.
But what about love? What about cooperation? To be sure, the principles of cooperation, understanding, and compassion are all incredibly important in any kind of relationship. Empathy, the ability to feel others’ feelings, helps you to understand the emotional consequences of your actions in the lives of others.
But what does this have to do with staying small?
Personal willpower is domination of your inner demons. Other people’s inner demons respond when confronted with your will power. By inner demons I’m referring to fear, jealousy, low self worth, toxic shame, negative thinking, etc. If you have mastered these valid aspects of yourself then other people will sense it in you.
But first they will likely challenge you, in which case, you must make yourself bigger than the bear.
Bigger Than The Bear
I have a friend who trains martial arts, and I recently had the rare opportunity to learn from him (he NEVER does this, so I need to emphasize how grateful I am that he shared with me some of his philosphy!)
Of the lessons that he taught me, one that has stuck with me came out of this situation:
We were playing around, not quite sparring, but playing around, and I fell into some familiar patterns of martial movement based on my Capoiera training. When he advanced on me in an attack, I immediately fell to the ground into my familiar floorwork. Because I hadn’t trained in a while, my floor game wasn’t sufficient to defend against my friends attacks. He just had this dominant energy that I didn’t know how to approach. If we were actually fighting, I would have been toast.
I became frustrated and finally asked for some help.
He compassionately instructed me to imagine I was in the woods, perhaps camping alone, and I happen upon a bear. An angry bear – a hungry bear.
“You have to make yourself bigger than the bear.” he said.
I placed my hands up in the air, imagined seeing a bear in the woods, and I felt incredibly awkward. I’m sure I looked like I was trying to flag down UFOs for a sparkle pony lazer party.
But he continued: “No, you have to make your ENERGY bigger than the bear”.
That’s when it clicked.
Anyone in my life who has ever pushed me around (and, admittedly, it’s been quite a few), has always been bigger than me. Not in physical stature, although that has sometimes been the case, but in ENERGY. I imagined my ENERGY as bigger than the bear.
In my codependent family, I had to make myself small to survive. I was bear food. But this energetic pattern of behavior is not helping me in situations now, where, as an adult, I am confronted with angry/hungry bearish behavior in others.
Putting it to the Test
Shortly after my impromptu martial arts class I was in a situation where someone was verbally abusing me – calling me names, trolling me. I was with a female friend. I remembered my training and instead of making myself smaller, instead of reacting with more verbal abuse, I just stared at this person and made my energy bigger than the bear. Everyone in the room felt the shift. My female friend grabbed me by the arm as if to say “he’s not worth it” – like she was restraining me or holding me back from a fight. I wasn’t looking for a fight but at the same time I wasn’t going to let this person abuse me anymore. I imagined this person as a bear and I made my energy bigger than him, bigger than any name calling he was throwing at me. With that energetic shift I was able to cause the bear to back down without a single word or fist. The abuser ended up apologizing afterwards.
After this experience I’ve been reflecting on how, without realising it, most of my life I’ve made myself smaller than the bear because I knew no other way of being.
What are some examples of bears in your life? Try to come up with a few examples and imagine making your energy bigger than the bear. It’s the only way to stop it from eating you! Your life is important, and valuable. Don’t let these bears devour you.
College was a bear for me. Some musical relationships were bears. My parents and siblings were, for the most part; bears. This isn’t to shame or blame them – most people don’t realize when they act out the basic human traits of domination. But what sucks is that a lot of the time this imposition of bearishness can squelch the redeeming qualities of love and compassion and dignity and respect.
But I believe, firmly, that by adopting the practice of making oneself bigger than the bear, that we can teach other human beings – on a cellular level, which is really an energetic level – that we are not to be dominated. (again, this isn’t in the sexual context, you kinky lovers).
If we become the dominant beings we have a choice, and, imho, a responsibility to be compassionately dominant. I choose to use my will to teach others, to trust others and earn their trust in me. I want to lead, if not for the sole reason that I’ve allowed myself – based on past “small Tim” conditioning – to fall victim to the inept leadership of incompetent people.
And you know, it’s almost as if, by asserting ourselves as being bigger than the bear, that whole Domination/Submission dynamic has the opportunity to eat itself by the the tail and totally dissolve itself – which, to some, is terrifying because it is their entire view of reality – but, I would put forth, confidently, that there exists a world outside of this dynamic in human relationships: one of mutual cooperation, negotiation, respect, and reason; and that when the bear is conquered there must exist something else, and we, as conscious beings, have the choice and the duty to perpetuate these principles in our own lives, and in the lives of others with whom we share influence.
Let’s become bigger than the bears, and let’s let the bears see our soft courage and our open hearts, and perhaps, too, these bears will become human again.
Peace and goodwill.